The tiebreaker is Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, and believe me, there were a lot of ties to break -- and coins to flip -- when I went through the NCAA bracket Sunday.

Almost everything else is a jumble, and all the top teams basically seem like either/or mirror images to me.

Louisville, Kansas and Arizona? About the same high level of talent, set up in different ways.

Virginia, Wichita State and Florida? Very similar wonderful regular-season performances.

Duke, Michigan and Syracuse? Admirable teams with admirable coaches that all seem to be missing something important.

You can put Michigan State into one of those maybe-but-not-quite categories, if you want, because the Spartans didn't have a perfect season by any measure.

But I'm picking the Spartans to win the national title this year for one reason:

Izzo teams almost never underperform in the tournament, and this Michigan State team -- finally healthy, rolling again -- seems particularly prepared to flatten everybody in its path.

Sure, the Spartans are only a four seed in the East -- they lost too many games while dealing with injuries to Adreian Payne, Branden Dawson and Keith Appling to earn anything higher.

And sure, Michigan State's statistical profile (an Izzo team 66th in rebounding? yikes!) is much worse than the teams that have won titles recently.

But the injuries wrecked their stats and now that Dawson and Payne are back healthy, nobody will be pushing Michigan State around during the Madness.


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Secondly, Payne and guard Gary Harris are both NBA-bound and good enough to win tight games on their own.

Finally, there's Izzo, who has a 39-15 record in the tournament, with six Final Fours and the 2000 national championship.

But still, it all came down to a coin flip for me picking the final game; yes, I almost picked Arizona for the whole thing.

Of all the 1 and 2 seeds, Arizona has the simplest road to the Final Four -- first two games in San Diego, the regional in Anaheim, the Final Four outside of Dallas.

Also, great defensive teams seem to have the easiest time avoiding early upsets, and Arizona's defense is tremendous.

But I picked Michigan State to win the last game because I just don't trust Arizona's free-throw shooting and depth, and I do trust Izzo.

Meanwhile, I've got VCU taking the South regional. Why? Pressure defenses can cover up a lot of other weaknesses, and I don't think VCU has that many weaknesses, anyway.

I've got Michigan surviving the brutal Midwest because Michigan is so well-coached and versatile.

Note: I stayed away from picking any of the Midwest superpowers (Duke, Louisville, Wichita State and Michigan) to win it all because I figure they'll beat each other up too much along the way.

Some other thoughts about my bracket ...

  • Upstarts to watch:

    I like Saint Joseph's as the double-digit seed most likely to go for a run.

    The 10th-seeded Hawks beat VCU twice, beat Dayton three times and beat UMass once, and I've got them knocking off No. 2 Villanova in a Philadelphia grudge match.

    Also in the East, I've got 11 seed Providence taking down up-and-down North Carolina.

    I've got Nebraska (West's 11 seed) over Baylor just because Baylor's talent is always scary but never seems to translate in tournament victories.

  • VCU is no Cinderella as a 5 seed in the South, and I love the potential Round of 32 matchup against No. 4 UCLA, which tried to hire VCU coach Shaka Smart last spring.

    Smart signed an extension instead, and that's when the Bruins turned to Steve Alford, who has UCLA playing its best right now.

  • Teams most likely to screw up my bracket?

    You never know about Kentucky, which could get Wichita State in the Round of 32.

    The Shockers are good, but they're not exactly built to go up and down against a team loaded with NBA talent. If Kentucky has its head screwed on straight, watch out here.

    Villanova deserved its 2 seed in the East, but I think the Wildcats have zero chance to go deep. If they do, my East picks are toast.

    And I've never given the top overall seed in the entire tournament as little regard as I'm giving Florida this year.

    Louisville won it all as the No. 1 last year; Kentucky won it all as the No. 1 in 2012.

    I'm saying that this year's Florida team is not in that class; if it proves me wrong, I'll have nobody to blame but myself. And I'll blame Izzo a little bit, too.

    Read Tim Kawakami's Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami. Contact him at tkawakami@mercurynews.com.